In observance of National Childhood Obesity Awareness month this September, Delta Dental of New Jersey is calling attention to this problem. It’s one that we can solve together.
In the last 30 years, obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, more than a third of U.S. children are overweight or obese. As a result, there are an increasing number of obesity-related health problems among young Americans, from pre-diabetes to heart disease.
There also is a link between obesity and poor oral health. While obesity may not necessarily cause poor oral health or periodontal disease, we often find that people who suffer from obesity also have problems with their oral health. In this way, obesity and poor nutrition contribute to the number one chronic childhood disease: tooth decay.
The good news is that you can protect your child’s oral health and overall health by making a few significant lifestyle changes.
Tip #1: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.Besides being packed with nutrients, certain fruits and veggies can even help clean the teeth and gums. Choose foods rich in vitamin C, including citrus fruits; leafy vegetables and potatoes; foods with folic acid, such as spinach and broccoli; and foods with vitamin B12, such as dairy and meat. Dairy and spinach also have the added benefit of calcium for building strong bones and teeth.
Tip #2: Choose foods that have an added benefit for your teeth. Cheese, chicken, nuts, and milk help to counteract the acidity in your mouth and provide the phosphorus needed to remineralize teeth. These foods may even help to protect tooth enamel. Check the Snack Smart Food List from Delta Dental for other good choices.
Tip #3: If you want something sweet, choose a crunchy fruit. These types of fruits, like apples and pears, for example, have a high water content, which helps dilute the effects of their natural sugar.
Tip #4: Avoid sticky snacks. These include sugary granola bars that only masquerade as being healthy. Also stay away from candies like caramel, gummy bears, and other sticky sweets that will remain on your teeth for longer periods of time. Not only are they ‘empty calories,’ but they provide fuel for bacteria.
Tip #5: Choose water or low-fat milk for a beverage. Avoid soft drinks and sweetened carbonated beverages; soda can have as much sugar as a candy bar and diet drinks often include flavor-enhancing acids that can harm tooth enamel. Even sports drinks might have more sugar than you think.